Queen Bey made history this weekend when she became the first black woman to headline Coachella.
More than that (I mean, how many times more times can she make history), she was lauded for her performance, which a New York Times reviewer called “… rich with history, potently political and visually grand. By turns uproarious, rowdy, and lush. A gobsmacking marvel of choreography and musical direction.”
The “history” referenced historically black colleges and universities, as well as a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing (aka the “Negro National Anthem,” as it was adopted by the NAACP), written by Jacksonville natives James Weldon Johnson (lyrics) and his brother John Rosamond Johnson (music).
James taught at Edwin M. Stanton School (now Stanton College Preparatory School) in the early 1900s, eventually being promoted to principal. He wrote “Life Ev’ry Voice and Sing” (as it was originally called) for a celebration at Abraham Lincoln’s birthday at Stanton.
Since then, everyone from Ray Charles and Al Green to Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight has recorded the song. To hear a portion of Beyonce’s version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” click on her photo above.